Tuesday, May 15, 2012

PSALMS THAT PROVIDE PERSPECTIVE :PSALM 112 - “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord ”


 
Some general  comments: 
1.   This Psalm  (along with Ps 111) is an  acrostic poem. In the Hebrew translation   this Psalm consists of 22 short lines (or half verses) which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (alelph , bet , gimel , dalet , he , waw, zayin,  het , tet , yod, kap, lamed , mem , nun , samek, ayin, pe, sade, qop, res, sin, taw) . This is probably an aid to memorization  of the  Psalms . The Psalms   were after  all  the hymnbook of Israel, and the memorisation of these added  to the rich deposit of truth  in the  hearts and minds of the Jews. We have previously looked  at a few psalms   in the Psalm  120- 134 range,  which  are  entitled ‘song of ascents‘ – in all likelihood  songs sung by   worshippers  ascending to Mt Zion ,  the location of the temple in Jerusalem. They must have had these words  in their minds and hearts , to sing them  as they ascended.  So  the use of acrostics , and poetic language  and Hebrew parallelism  are  all aids to memorisation  of   the Word of God.
2.   We are not told who the  author of the Psalm is, but it is highly  likely that 111 and 112  were composed by the same author.
3.  The subject  of Psalm 112  is stated in the first verse, and it expounded in  verses 2 to 9. The  final  verse (v.10)  makes mention  of the  response of the ungodly or wicked man  to the fortunes of the righteous  .

Exposition
V.1.  Praise the LORD!
Please note that Psalms  111, 112 and 113   all begin in the same way: Praise the Lord, - hallelujah!  Hallelujah is said whenever we are overwhelmed by  great theology!  The heart best sings to God,  and praises  God, when  great  thoughts  about God are heard  and understood. What we desperately need  in our churches is  more preaching that passionately  and prayerfully  and powerfully  expounds the greatness of God!  John Piper in his book  “The Supremacy  of God in Preaching”   says this in the opening words of his book: “People are starving  for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure. There are  far more popular prescriptions on the market, but the benefit  of any other remedy is brief and shallow. Preaching that does not have the aroma of God’s greatness may entertain for a season , but it will not touch the hidden cry of the soul : “Show me thy glory!”  (p.9) 
So if Spurgeon and other commentators are right , and if Psalms 111 and 112 hang together , we  shall find that   Psalm 111  provides  the fuel  for  the heart  praises God and which is transformed by the knowledge  and the understanding  of His great works, His splendour and  majesty, righteousness   and of  His  gracious and merciful providences to  His covenant  people.
In Psalm 111:10 we find the connecting thought  between Psalms  111 & 112: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom , all those who practise it have  a good understanding. His praise endures forever.”  
And the opening words of  Ps 112:1  confirm   and echo these thoughts:  “Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!” 

What precisely is it that produces  the desire  for the Psalmist to praise God?
It is “the  fear of the Lord!
Here  is the reason for praise. The man who understands the God of  Psalm 111 is the man  who sees  God in a right relationship to himself . He sees God for who He is , and he is humbled, and he therefore learns to fear God. He learns  to  live life  with God in mind. David  says in Psalm 16:8 I have set the Lord always before me; (and here is the result ) because  He is at my right hand , I shall not be shaken”. This is a God fearing man – he always has the Lord before  him! He fears God more than anyone or anything.  Needless to say that  this is a godly fear, not a slavish fear “… a delightful emotion, by no means  engendering bondage”  (Spurgeon: Vol III, p.15) . The fear of the Lord , unlike  the fear of man does not bring us into bondage , but into Liberty – and that is why this man is blessed .
[8] Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
[9] Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! (Psalm 34:8-9 ESV)
Praise the Lord!  

V.2. His offspring will be mighty in the land;    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Here , the best I can do is to illustrate :
1.       From the lives  of Jonathan Edwards  & Max Jukes :  The lives of these two men were studied by A.E. Winship (1900)  ( A Study in Education and Heredity).  Jonathan Edwards (born 1703) , probably America’s greatest theologian and pastor ,  entered Yale College at age 13 and graduated with honours. At the end of his life he was  the principal  of  Princeton University  .  He had  married Sarah Pierrepont, and  their descendants include a U.S. Vice-President, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers and 100 missionaries. This same study  also examined a family known as “Jukes”.  In 1877, while visiting New York’s prisons, Richard Dugdale found inmates with 42 different last names all descending from one man, called “Max.”  Max Jukes  was born around 1720 of Dutch stock. He was  a hard drinker, idle, irreverent and uneducated. His descendants included 310 paupers, who, combined spent 2,300 years in poorhouses, 50 women of debauchery, 400 physically wrecked by indulgent living, 7 murderers, 60 thieves, and 130 other convicts. The “Jukes” descendants apparently cost the state more than $1,250,000.
2.      Obituary  from B.U. Handbook 1992/3 on the life of  Henry Trenbarth Jeffrey ( p 181) – an ordinary church member –

The point is obvious: Those  God fearing  people that  embrace  the awesome God of  Psalm 111 are mighty in the land;  the generation of the upright  will be blessed!

FURTHER BLESSINGS …
V.3  Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. On this text , Spurgeon comments :  “ Understood literally this is  rather a promise of the Old Covenant  than the new , for many of the best  of the people of God are very poor; yet it has been found that uprightness is the road of success , and,   all other things being equal, the honest man is the rising man…. If we understand the  passage spiritually , it is abundantly true. What wealth can equal that of the love of God? What riches can equal a contented heart ?”  (p.16). May I remind you  that the true, ultimate  riches of a Christian are not of a temporal nature. We have treasures that the world knows nothing of! They are virtues like peace, contentment, security, power in prayer, experience of God’s providence  etc. Our Lord Jesus Himself encouraged  His disciples to focus on eternal rather than temporal things (cf Jn 6:27). An abundant measure of physical wealth may not be  to our advantage. Once again, Spurgeon rightly observes: “Often, when gold comes in , the gospel goes out”. Not so with the blessed man. He keeps the gospel  close to His heart  and the  fear of the Lord  guides him and directs His footsteps, and if he should become prosperous (which is not an ungodly thing in itself), this prosperity  does not destroy the holiness of his life or the humility of his heart.

V.4 Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. Here is the perspective which we may easily loose in vv 2 &3. It is clear that the blessed man will have his days of darkness. He may become sick. He may suffer bereavement or financial loss (Job) It may be that his character is unjustly assaulted  or his integrity attacked ( see  v.10).  He may  have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death- and yet he fears no ill!  Why? Because the  Lord upholds Him in his trial. The child of God is sustained by his God in his darkest hours . ”Never will I leave you , never will I forsake you.(Hebr 13:5; Josh 1:5)  This is his constant promise. Only one was once utterly  forsaken – for your sake, so that you who trust Him  will not be forsaken. The joy of the righteous man  is  not conditioned by the nature of  the  rough roads that he has to frequently travel  on. His joy  is in Him who  walks  and often carries him on this road. He knows that in the midst of his trial his redeemer lives (Job) . He knows whom he has believed, and he is persuaded  that he will be kept until the coming of Christ  (2 Tim 1:12)

v.5 It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice.
The man who fears the Lord  shall find that he has  enough , so that he can share with those in need , and of course – he will  provide for  those in need because   the mercy and compassion  and grace received from God  moves him to be an imitator  of these godly virtues.  He becomes a cheerful giver  (2 Cor 9:7)  ; he conducts his affairs  with justice. He is fair, and will never rob anyone , nor be a burden  to anyone. He is a resource person in society. He contributes in every way- physically, emotionally, spiritually. He does not cost! He does not  drain. He is like the Lord Jesus – He makes many rich (even though He was poor!)

Vv 6-9 For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. [7] He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.[8] His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. [9] He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor.
Neither man , nor devil  will unsettle him. Again , the secret is found  in the fact that this man  trusts in the Lord  (v.7b). His courage has a firm foundation. He is not a rolling stone but a pillar in the  house of God. He is not afraid of man because He fears God  more than man.  Verse 9  highlights his generosity again  - and all this  because he is rooted in God who through Christ has  endued him with  a righteousness  that is not only a theological fact  but a practical  expression  in his life. His horn is exalted in honour. The horn in the Scripture is a symbol of strength. To lift up one’s horn usually means to be proud and boastful (e.g. Psalm 75:4) , but in our verse   this is an instance in which  the Lord   exalts  him – humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you (1 Peter 5:6 ;  Psalm 147:6)

V. 10 The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish!  Warning! There is an occupational hazard  in being a God fearing man!  The wicked will hate you  without cause  (Jn 15:25- Psalm 35:19; Psalm 69:4). Understand this , and do not be surprised when your righteousness and integrity at work  causes  some to be offended at you. Jesus has warned you that this will happen. Understand this , and you will not be caught off guard, but know this – that the end of the  wicked will be terrible, and therefore  you must not envy them or despise them  (this is the lesson that the Psalmist had to learn in Psalm 73).

APPLICATION:

1.   ‘Knowing God ‘ leads us  to   a life of  thankful praise. Knowing God comes  from  regular  meditation and  memorisation of God’s Word  with prayer and dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
2.      Knowing God produces  the fear of the Lord  which  keeps us from sin  and  so many spiritual maladies and faulty ways of thinking.
3.       Knowing God  makes us truly wise in every sense of the word , so that it is not surprising when we make wise  decisions that lead to  material, emotional , spiritual  prosperity.
4.      Knowing God makes  you become an imitator of His character – gracious , merciful , righteous , generous.
5.      Knowing God  makes you fearless in fearful times.
6.      Knowing God  makes you not envy the wicked.

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